Most everyone has been charmed by its sugary smooth powers. There's even a festival held in its name during the month of February, put on by the Make-A-Wish® of East Tennessee that the locals flock to; a festival that caters to every chocolate lover's dream - with all proceeds going to ensure the dreams of area children with life-threatening illnesses become a reality.
The Chocolate Festival, now in its 12th year, was originally hosted by the Kidney Foundation until Make-A-Wish® took it over three years ago, seeing the opportunity to grant more children their wishes while supplying sweet treats to its patrons through area vendors.
The 2013 Chocolate Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9, at the MeadowView Convention Center in Kingsport. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
Make-A-Wish® East Tennessee is part of the largest wish-granting charity in the world and one of 65 chapters in the United States and its territories. The foundation has granted over 940 wishes since its start in 1988, serving children ages 2 ½ to under 18 in 36 counties across Chattanooga, Knoxville and theTri-Cities.
The purpose of Make-A-Wish® is to grant wishes "to children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy." The hope is to "inspire" these children "to continue living with exuberance."
Four different types of wishes are granted through Make-A-Wish®: I wish to go, I wish to meet, I wish to be, I wish to have. Local wishes range from going to Disney World, meeting celebrities at a Hollywood premiere, being a grand marshal in a parade and having a bedroom makeover. The organization feels "the doctors provide the medicine, and we provide the magic!"
A national "wish impact study" showed 89 percent of wish kid parents saw an increase in their child's emotional strength and 99 percent reported that the wish experience gave their children increased feelings of happiness.
For the Northeast Tennessee region, two to three wishes are granted per month while many more are in the works.
"I am currently working on more than 17 wishes in and around the Tri-Cities and am getting new wish kids almost every week," staff coordinator Meredith Roberts said.
Along with donations, events like the Chocolate Festival fuel the funds for these wishes while the hands of volunteers make them possible. Hands like those of Kansas native and publicity committee volunteer, Cindy Daugherty, who got involved with Make-A-Wish®and the festival three years ago to help children and "make a difference." She views the importance of the organization through the perspective of entire families. Not only does the child deserve the wish, a break from doctors, hospitals and treatments, but so do their parents and siblings; an opportunity to experience something extraordinary is oftentimes their chance to regain a sense of normalcy.
Make-A-Wish® volunteers and supporters are always needed and this chocolate-filled event is another opportunity to help brighten the lives of children (and their families).
The 2013 Chocolate Festival is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9, at the MeadowView Convention Center in Kingsport. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Thirty local vendors, including both corporate and small-town establishments, will hand out chocolate treats and other sweets to ticket-holders; and never fear, drink refreshments will be served to cleanse the palate in between samplings.
Local music and entertainment will be provided and, for those less intrigued by the prospect of chocolate, there is a silent auction to browse with "really cool items" to bid on.
Also this year, the first Northeast Tennessee Chocolate Festival Pageant will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Age divisions run from infant to adult and all entries will receive a crown for participation. The 2013 Chocolate Festival Grand Supreme Queen will be awarded to the contestant who raises the most funds for Make-A-Wish®.
With something for everyone from "chocoholics" to "shopoholics" to pageant lovers, Daugherty admits she does it for the smiles.
"When we have the event and I actually get to meet the wish kids and their families and [see] how excited they are," she beamed, "nothing's better than seeing the kids smile."
For tickets, to donate, to volunteer, or for more information about Make-A-Wish® of East Tennessee, visit their website at http://www.wishetn.org/ or call 423-989-9474.